2008-09 prediction: Magic tighten grip on Southeast

With Turkoglu outside and Howard inside, the Magic should be able to take another Southeast title. AP Photo/Jerry Lai

Editor's note: We asked our panel of NBA experts, "Who will win the Southeast Division?"

1. Orlando Magic: 17 votes

Henry Abbott, ESPN.com's TrueHoop: This is an elite team in two departments: big man and coach. And Dwight Howard is at the age where he is likely to enter the MVP conversation.

J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: Hedo Turkoglu went to the next level last season; this year it will be Rashard Lewis' turn.

Maurice Brooks, ESPN.com: The frontcourt is one of the best in the East, but it will be the play of the below-average guards that will decide how many games they finish ahead of the Wizards.

Ric Bucher, ESPN Mag: Superman + Stan Van Gundy = No Contest

Chris Broussard, ESPN Mag: With improved backcourt play, they could challenge the East kingpins.

Chad Ford, ESPN.com: The Magic will win the worst division in the NBA by default.

John Hollinger, ESPN.com: Unlikely to win 52 again, but still the cream of a weak crop.

Mark Jackson, ESPN: They are well-coached and experienced, and Dwight Howard is a superstar.

Jackie MacMullan, ESPN: Dwight Howard takes another giant step forward.

Tim Legler, ESPN: The best offensive frontline in the NBA adds major backcourt help with Mickael Pietrus, Anthony Johnson and rookie Courtney Lee. They can get to the East finals.

Keith Lipscomb, ESPN.com Fantasy:
Heat will improve dramatically, but not enough to catch the safe pick in Orlando.

Chris Palmer, ESPN Mag: Howard is the game's best on the block. That's good enough for first here.

Jack Ramsay, ESPN Radio: A better team with Pietrus and Anthony Johnson. Howard, Turkoglu and Lewis are a solid foundation.

Jalen Rose, ESPN: The Mickael Pietrus signing didn't make national headlines, but it will have a big impact.

Chris Sheridan, ESPN.com: I have my doubts about their shooting and newcomer Mickael Pietrus, and they're vastly outmatched in the backcourt by every other strong East team. Still light years head of the competition in their division.

Marc Stein, ESPN.com:
I still say that the second round is the Magic's playoff ceiling, but you have to peg them for divisional dominance in the South-least.

David Thorpe, ESPN.com:
The offense has a nice combination of slashers and shooters, and the biggest force of the East inside.

2. Atlanta Hawks: 1 vote

Scoop Jackson, ESPN.com